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Citizen Lab develops Internet initiative to shed light on RIM's concessions to governments

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders welcomes a new website, Project RIM Check, that is intended to shed light on government surveillance of BlackBerry smartphone services that the BlackBerry's Canadian manufacturer, Research in Motion (RIM), seems to have permitted in certain countries where its smartphones are used.

Created by the University of Toronto's famous Citizen Lab, a technology and human rights research centre, and SecDev Group, an Ottawa-based thinktank, the project is "inspired by a broad need to monitor the activities of private sector actors that own and operate cyberspace, particularly as they come under increasing pressure to cooperate with governments on national surveillance and censorship laws."

Reporters Without Borders declares its support for this initiative, which is intended to generate information of interest to concerned BlackBerry users.

Launched just as India has called off its threat to shut down BlackBerry services, this project is intended to establish "who has access to what" as a result of the concessions that RIM is believed to have made in response to demands from governments for more and more access to their citizens' instant messaging, emails, texts and other electronic communications.

India has reportedly reached a provisional agreement with RIM allowing it to intercept BlackBerry services. The deadline for reaching a definitive agreement is 31 January. So, for the time being, Blackberry services are not going to be suspended in India. But at what price?

This is what Project RIM Check is intended to answer. The initiative is able to monitor BlackBerry data traffic and shed light on the data's security. BlackBerry users are invited to go to the project's website ( ) in order to provide Citizen Lab's researchers with the details that will allow them to monitor traffic flow and identify the location of RIM's servers.

Citing the need to protect national security, various countries have of late been pressuring RIM to install servers within their territory in order to allow surveillance of BlackBerry communications. Reporters Without Borders has voiced concern about these initiatives and the danger of facilitating government surveillance of dissidents. It has also asked RIM to be more transparent.

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